Basil Pesto Recipe
Whether you pick it up at your local farmer’s market, grab a bunch at the grocery store, or grow it in your own garden, basil is summer at its best. This is the time of year when those beautiful green plants really explode with aromatic leaves.
Basil loves direct sunshine and lots of it. Our dreary June weather had my basil plants threatening to pack their bags and head to Arizona, along with half the people I know. Thankfully, we’ve seen enough sun in July to convince my basil to stick around and start producing those glorious green leaves.
If you’re having a rough day, head out to your garden and take your aggression out on your basil plants. Pinch off all those tiny new buds. No, really, it’s good for them.
Basil is an annual plant so once it flowers and goes to seed, the plant will start to get scrawny and eventually die off. To avoid this, simply pinch back the flowering buds (shown in the above picture and demonstrated in the below picture). This will encourage fuller growth and healthier plants. Also, picking and using the larger leaves will encourage new leaf buds to form where you pinch the old ones off. The more you pinch, the fuller your plants will become.
One of my favorite ways to use basil is by making my own pesto. Pesto is incredibly versatile. It can be used as a marinade for fish or chicken, a substitute for pasta or pizza sauce, or as part of an appetizer or condiment. Pesto also freezes well for a taste of summer in the middle of winter.
Basic Basil Pesto
Makes about 1 cup
2 c. firmly packed basil leaves
1/3-1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
1/2 c. nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds)
2-4 cloves of garlic
1/4 t. salt
In a food processor or blender, combine the basil, 1/3 c. olive oil, cheese, nuts, garlic, and salt.
Cover and process until nearly smooth, stopping and scraping the sides as necessary. Add enough remaining olive oil until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.
If using immediately, toss with hot cooked pasta, use as a marinade, substitute as a pizza/calzone sauce, use as a sandwich spread, or drizzle over fresh sliced vegetables.
If freezing, place 1/2-1 c. portions into small plastic containers & freeze. You can also flash freeze the pesto by scooping rounds onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Freeze until firm, then transfer to large plastic freezer bags. Either way, it will thaw quickly on the countertop or in the microwave when you’re ready to use it. Most recipes you read will say freeze up to 3 months. Like most foods, you can keep/use it out of the freezer for up to a year, but with time you’ll lose flavor quality.
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